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MUSIC / TESTAMENT : All-Black Is Back : Speed metal/death metal/thrash metal band likes to focus on death and agony. They'll do that in Isla Vista on Friday.


Well, there's the Old Testament, the New Testament and, now, the loud Testament. The latter will be loud at length Friday night at the Anaconda Theater in Isla Vista. Fit in. Wear black. Testament will.

The Bay Area quintet has just released its fifth album, "The Ritual." Judging by the cover of this one and the others, Testament appears to be the house band for Evil. Or it's what Freddy Kreuger has on his headphones as he boogies in Hell awaiting his dream date with Death.

In the great, grim world of Testament, life is just a bowl of wooden cherries, and even they have pits. Or is it that everything else is the pits? It is for the guy in the song, "Electric Crown." He's going to the electric chair. Maybe you'd like to sit in his lap? Death and agony are frequent themes. These guys don't wear black for nothing.

Testament drummer Louie Clemente discussed the life and times of his favorite speed metal/death metal/thrash metal band during a recent phone interview.

Has Testament ever stopped touring?

Just to do records, otherwise we'd never stop. Except this one--we spent seven months writing and recording. "The Ritual" came out May 12 and hit No. 55 on Billboard the first week. We've got a video that's been on MTV's "Headbanger's Ball," which we're hoping will go into full rotation. We're going to do these warm-up shows in Santa Barbara and Fresno before we go on the road with Iron Maiden.

Can music change the world?

Probably it could, but I don't think it should. Rock music definitely influences the fans. You live by the music you're into when you're young. There's a lot of good and bad things in the world, and people always seem to see the bad. Metal music, for example, gets a bad rap. We've gotten five, six or seven letters from kids who were going to commit suicide, but our music made them change their minds. You never hear about stuff like that.

How would you describe Testament music?

The new album is a lot different than our other stuff. There's a change in our music every year. We're not predictable. "The Ritual" is our favorite record. It's really more hard-rock type of music and not so much thrash or speed metal. Our music is to the point; it's about things going on in life, and not fictitious stuff.

How has your music changed over the years?

I think we found ourselves around our third album. Every Testament album is totally different. We're very proud of our new one. Our new stuff has more melody; it's catchier. It's not something we're consciously trying to do; it's just a natural thing for the band. You can't stay the same and play the same stuff. Also, we've changed, too. At our first show in 1987, we were just a bunch of drunk kids. We'd drink cases and cases of beer before we went on stage. Not anymore, man; we totally cut down on our partying. People come every night to see us. They pay to see you play. You should give them what they came for. It's much better to go on stage sober.

Metal seems to keep getting bigger. Why?

I dunno; it's hard to say. The make-up, glam bands of say, four years ago, such as Poison and Motley Crue, are losing their glitter. Those guys are starting to dress normal and wear T-shirts. Just look at the videos. Times change. Everybody's starting to sell records now. Record companies, MTV and radio sees that, and it means money. And if you're making money, whatever works works. Right now, the door is totally open.

Your album covers are pretty scary looking. Is the world so messed up that we should all hang ourselves right now or have you guys just watched "Hellraiser" too many times?

If you mean the cover of "The Ritual," well, that was just a last-minute thing. We had a week until we had to have it done. All those arrows are the sign of chaos.

Do you guys always wear black?

On stage, always on stage.

What's it like being the oapening act when most of the fans came to see someone else?

That never really mattered to us because we never headlined until last year. We played big places and we fulfilled what we want to do. Like when we opened for Judas Priest, we only got 30 minutes. It sucks, you sacrifice, but it's worth it. On this Iron Maiden tour, we're supporting them, which means we get 45 minutes. Corrosion of Conformity is opening and getting the 30 minutes.

So all this means more people will hear Testament and ultimately buy more of your records?

We don't care about that. We just want to play.

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